Songs In The Key of Life

Added on by Craig Stewart.

Like most of us in 1976, when I first heard Stevie Wonder’s pinnacle album “Songs In The Key of Life,” immediately I knew it was special work of art by a legit master of his craft. The entire album was like a guided tour through a beautiful kaleidoscope of musical styles and feelings.

Stevie spent two long years crafting this double album and it starts with his openly spiritual lament within the first two songs, “Love’s In Need of Love Today” and “Have A Talk With God.” The former has become almost prophetic these days, warning of love growing cold in too many hearts. The later is Stevie’s recommendation for prayer in anyone’s time of need, co-written with his brother Calvin.

In 2005, this album was fittingly inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, which deemed it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” 

Take my word for it. If you’ve somehow been living on another planet and still haven’t heard it by now... You’ve been missing out!

  © Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.  Source:  StevieWonder.org.uk


© Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.

Source: StevieWonder.org.uk

Way Beyond the Blue

Added on by Craig Stewart.

This old time spiritual and children’s song “Do Lord,” will be remembered by many from their childhood. Johnny Cash preformed it on ‘My Mother's Hymn Book’ in 2003, toward the very end of his life.

Surely the hymn’s title and meaning can be understood in Luke 23:39-43, where a discussion takes place between two criminals and Jesus at the crucifixion... One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus said to this man, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

  © Helpful Creative  Image Sources:  Wallpaper Abyss  +  Anton Atanasov


© Helpful Creative

Image Sources: Wallpaper Abyss + Anton Atanasov

The Spirit of Power

Added on by Craig Stewart.

Mike Scott is the founding member of the rock band ‘The Waterboys.’ Mike’s artistry as a Scottish singer, songwriter and musician is undeniable. Even though his songs have always been deeply spiritual, he attends no church and professes his own version of new age spiritualism.

While Mike and I would disagree on the origin of the spirit of power, as a Christian, I would agree with the truth found within Mike’s “Spirit” lyrics on ‘The Waterboys’ third album, This Is The Sea.

Man gets tired
Spirit don’t
Man surrenders
Spirit won’t
Man crawls
Spirit flies
Spirit lives when man dies

Man seems
Spirit is
Man dreams
The spirit lives
Man is tethered
Spirit is free
What spirit is man can be


As Jesus himself has testified: 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” — Luke 4:18-19 (ESV)

  © Helpful Creative  Sources:  Songfacts, LLC  +  Paul McManus


© Helpful Creative

Sources: Songfacts, LLC + Paul McManus

The Bluegrass Album Band

Added on by Craig Stewart.

Considered a supergroup by fans and followers of bluegrass music alike, The Bluegrass Album Band was founded by Tony Rice and J.D. Crowe in 1980. The band itself featured J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Tony Rice, Bobby Hicks, and Todd Phillips. The initial reason for the this ensemble was to help Tony Rice with his solo album. Although, once they began to work together and were so pleased with the result, The Bluegrass Album was born. This aforementioned album was released in 1981, with 5 more volumes of music to follow.

The song, “Model Church,” off this album was written by a NY Meth­od­ist min­ist­er named John H. Yates in 1896. It’s a gospel song about an old man visiting and recounting a meeting place not built for show. Telling his wife about the glorious singing and simple sermon he witnessed, he joyfully reassures her that though their race was nearly run, their victory would soon be won.

  © Helpful Creative  Sources:  AllMusic  +  Cyberhymnal  +  Timothy Meinberg  +  Harlan J. Berk


© Helpful Creative

Sources: AllMusic + Cyberhymnal + Timothy Meinberg + Harlan J. Berk

Good Friday

Added on by Craig Stewart.

With Jesus Christ and his followers, Easter is all about death and resurrection. This Easter, I wanted to share one of the clearest descriptions of God’s purpose on Calvary’s hill, Gordon Jensen’s beautiful song “Written In Red.”

In letters of crimson, God wrote His love
On the hillside so long, long ago;
For you and for me Jesus died,
And love's greatest story was told.

I love you, I love you
That's what Calvary said;
I love you, I love you,
I love you, Written in Red

Down through the ages, God wrote His love
With the same hands that suffered and bled;
Giving all that He had to give,
A message so easily read.

I love you, I love you,
That's what Calvary said;
I love you, I love you,
I love you...

Oh, precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood,
The blood of Jesus.

I love you, I love you
That's what Calvary said;
I love you, I love you,
I love you, Written... In Red

  © Helpful Creative  Sources:  Adventistasant  +  Gorden Jensen


© Helpful Creative

Sources: Adventistasant + Gorden Jensen

Hamblen’s Witness

Added on by Craig Stewart.

This well know gospel song was written by Stuart Hamblen, who’s regarded as one of radio’s first “singing cowboys.” He was the son of a Methodist minister in Texas who had a lot of trouble handling his newfound fame. Much like others before and after him, Hamblen’s drinking and the destructive behavior that followed, would often land him in jail.

His troubles changed shortly after meeting Billy Graham. They were both appearing on Hamblen’s show to publicize the event. While on the show, Graham invited Hamblen to attend his crusade, and he accepted. After the show Graham asked if they could meet together and talk. It was then, Hamblen committed his life to Jesus Christ.

After a period of time, one of Hamblen’s Hollywood friends asked him about the rumor going around that Hamblen had changed his ways. Hamblen then replied, it was no secret what God had done for him and what God could do for his friend. That friend’s name was John Wayne, who then encouraged Hamblen to turn those lines into a song. Following Wayne’s advice, Hamblen wrote “It Is No Secret,” becoming the first song to reach #1 on the Gospel, Country, and Pop charts. Later, it was recorded by such greats as Mahalia Jackson and Elvis Presley.

Coming from his own painful experience of too much whiskey and women, George Jones recorded my personal favorite of Hamblen’s gospel gem.

  © Helpful Creative  Sources:  BreakPoint  +  Woodward Backer  +  Elijah Henderson


© Helpful Creative

Sources: BreakPoint + Woodward Backer + Elijah Henderson

Blind Willie Johnson

Added on by Craig Stewart.

Blind Willie Johnson was an American gospel blues singer, guitarist and evangelist. His landmark recordings included thirty songs from only five recording sessions completed between 1927 and 1930. Johnson was known for his powerful ‘chest voice’ singing and masterful slide guitar skills.

Throughout his life Johnson was able to combine the gospel and blues into original music which elevated him to legendary status among other musicians like Eric Clapton. Some of Johnson’s gospel blues included “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” “Church, I’m Fully Saved Today,” “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed,” “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole,” and “Praise God I’m Satisfied.” His records sold well, but as a street performer and preacher he had little wealth in his lifetime.

Of the many biblical references for Johnson’s “Let Your Light Shine On Me,” perhaps my favorite comes from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:6 — For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Sacred Songs

Added on by Craig Stewart.

The Foggy Mountain Boys were an American bluegrass band. The band was founded by guitarist Lester Flatt and banjo player Earl Scruggs. They are largely viewed by music historians as one of the premier bluegrass groups in their genre. The band was originally formed in 1948 by Flatt, who had been a member of Bill Monroe’s bluegrass band. Flatt brought Scruggs with him shortly after leaving Monroe.

“You Can Feel It In Your Soul” was released by the Foggy Mountain Boys band on their “Sacred Songs” album in 1967. Its meaning is as straightforward as the song title. As a listener on the corresponding YouTube video once said, ”You really CAN feel it in your soul. That’s how I knew I was a believer, even though I was not brought up going to church. This song is beautiful, isn’t it? Just beautiful!”

Let all the believers say Amen!

  © Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.  Sources:  Wikipedia  +  YouTube


© Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.

Sources: Wikipedia + YouTube

The Bread of Life

Added on by Craig Stewart.

After joining Mercy Sisters in Burlingame as a choral teacher at Mercy High School, Sister Suzanne Toolan wrote a popular hope-filled hymn entitled “I Am the Bread of Life,” in 1966. It has been translated into 25 languages and performed in congregations around the world to this day. 

Suzanne recalls how it began, “I was teaching high school at the time and wrote the song during my free period.  When the bell rang for the next class I decided I didn’t like the music, so I tore it up and threw it in the wastepaper basket.

My classroom was next to the infirmary, where the girls who didn’t want to take tests or were otherwise unprepared for class went for a period or two until they were tracked down by an exasperated teacher. As I left my classroom, a freshman girl came out of the infirmary and said, “What was that?  It was beautiful!” I went back into my classroom, took the manuscript out of the basket and taped it together. It has had a life of its own ever since.

I could never figure out how the hymn became popular. I know in our Roman Catholic tradition it came at the beginning of our use of the vernacular, and we simply didn’t have much to sing in our own language. But I also think its popularity stems from its message of resurrection, which is so strong in these words of Jesus. We so need that message of hope. I am always touched when people tell me that at the funeral of a mother, father or friend, these sung words of Jesus gave them consolation. Then I know the hymn has done its work.”

  © Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.  Source:  Sisters of Mercy


© Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.

Source: Sisters of Mercy

Christmas

Added on by Craig Stewart.

In 1818, a Catholic priest named Joseph Mohr was distraught over the church organ not working before a Christmas Eve service in the Austrian Alps. As problematic to his evening’s regular midnight service as it seemed, it provided him an opportunity to create one of the most beloved Christmas hymns we still sing today.

That's when Joseph began to pen the words to “Silent Night.” After finishing, he handed them to Franz Gruber his organist. Upon reading the lyrics, Franz replied, “You have found it — the right song — God be praised!” Quickly, Franz composed a simple tune for a single guitar accompaniment.

Hearing about this near Christmas eve service disaster, the organ repairman on call asked for a copy of the song. Immediately he began sharing it with others. Touring groups soon started singing it in concerts, helping to spread the hymn’s popularity. Later it was used by German speaking congregations in America. “Silent Night” first appeared as the current English translation in a book of Sunday school songs in 1863.

Building on Sand

Added on by Craig Stewart.

This bluegrass gospel song was released on the album, “Flatt and Scruggs Foggy Mountain Gospel” and preformed by the legendary guitarist Lester Flatt and his landmark banjo player Earl Scruggs.

Lyrically “Building on Sand” is based on scripture from Matthew 7:24–27 — “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

  © Helpful Creative  Sources:  Wikipedia  +  Daniel Apodaca  +  Nile


© Helpful Creative

Sources: Wikipedia + Daniel Apodaca + Nile

Why the Crucifixion?

Added on by Craig Stewart.

“Why” is a modern day parable of Christ’s crucifixion. Eloquently written and preformed by Nichole Nordeman, with its multi-layered viewpoints coming from each of three main characters; a young girl, followed by Jesus and then the Father.

Within this parable, Nichole paints one of single best answers anyone will ever give you for Jesus crying out with a loud voice from the cross, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” — Matthew 27:46.

  © Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.  Source:  The Crucifixion by Antoine Coypel (French, 1661 - 1722)


© Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.

Source: The Crucifixion by Antoine Coypel (French, 1661 - 1722)

Happy Day

Added on by Craig Stewart.

“Oh, happy day
When Jesus washed my sins away.”

Edwin Hawkins is an American gospel musician, pianist, choirmaster, composer, and arranger. He is also one of the originators of the urban contemporary gospel sound. As a child, Hawkins first remembered hearing this old-time Baptist hymn while listening to the Philadelphia-based gospel group The Davis Sisters. Hawkins would later rearrange and teach it to the Northern California State Youth Choir. “Oh Happy Day” would go on to earn a Grammy in 1969, reaching the U.S. top five recordings that same year.

The legendary Ray Charles preformed this Hawkins’ classic live, along with The Voices of Jubilation Choir in 2003. If you want to hear the perfect pairing of a soulful lead singer with powerful backing choir, this is it!

  © Helpful Creative  Sources:  Gospel Gal  +  ONWALLHD


© Helpful Creative

Sources: Gospel Gal + ONWALLHD

The Rising

Added on by Craig Stewart.

“The Rising” was released in 2002 as the title track from Bruce Springsteen’s 12th studio album. Springsteen wrote the song and the body of work on the album as a reaction to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. These attacks caused the death of 2,996 people and injured over 6,000 others. The critical response to the single included a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

The song tells the story of a firefighter, as he goes into one of the most desperate events in American history. It begins with the start of his day, the tools of his profession and the Cross of Saint Florian. It closes with a series of final visions: his wife, his children, and all human experience:

Sky of blackness and sorrow (dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (dream of life)

This day I thank God for everyone who is called to rescue and protect anyone in need. And most of all, I’m eternally thankful for Jesus Christ, the one God sent to rescue all who would call upon His name (Romans 10:13).

Lauryn Hill

Added on by Craig Stewart.

Like the Joni Mitchell song “Love,“ Lauryn Hill wrote and performed a bonus song entitled “Tell Him,” from her 1998 Grammy award winning album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” It’s a gorgeous R&B version of her interpretation about one of the clearest descriptions of love in biblical scriptures, the apostle Paul’s 1 Corinthians 13.

Whether you believe she sings a prayer of love to her man, her child or her Savior, the merciful clarity of Lauryn’s lyrics are an absolute beauty to hear. It's a description of love I’ve both felt and admired. Most women seem to freely have and give it in abundance. Anyone who’s been so blessed, can easily see it in a mother’s love for her child and a wife’s love for her husband. It’s a love that covers a multitude of wrongs.

You can hear it with accompanying lyrics at https://youtu.be/-RAqYg7bnmw.

  © Helpful Creative  Sources:  Idolator.com  +  Classic Album Sundays


© Helpful Creative

Sources: Idolator.com + Classic Album Sundays

Nichole Nordeman

Added on by Craig Stewart.

If you’ve heard Nichole Nordeman’s beautiful song “Every Season,” you might be surprised to learn the story behind it. The song was written about a friend’s wedding day and soon followed by the groom’s memorial service. Nichole first performed this song at this same memorial service.

In Nichole’s own words, “It was so overwhelming to have these two really heavy life moments, one overflowing with joy and one unbelievably wrought with grief and to somehow still be able to believe… to really believe that God is not God only in a summer season. That God is not God only when our life is good. And it was so much more of a challenge to say to God, ‘You are still here and You are still in charge and You are still full of goodness and mercy’ in the middle of winter. ‘Every Season’ was my way of saying ‘I’m not going to let God’s sovereignty be ruled by my emotions or circumstances or I’ll be all over the map for the rest of my life.”

It’s songs like “Every Season” that justify why Nichole often refers to herself as a “wrestling poet.” 

Ralph Stanley

Added on by Craig Stewart.

“Cry from the Cross” was released in 1972 with what many consider Ralphy Stanley’s best band during his lengthy career. These band members included singer Roy Lee Centers, fiddler Curly Ray Cline, bassist Jack Cooke, mandolinist Ricky Skaggs and guitarist Keith Whitley.

On this memorable album comes the hard-charging bluegrass number “I Am the Man Thomas,” written by Stanley and Larry Sparks. The tempo is fast and urgent with lyrics reflecting the words of Jesus as He greets Thomas, eight-days after the resurrection:

Oh, I am the Man, Thomas, I am the Man
Look at these nail scars here in my hands

They pierced me in the side, Thomas, I am the Man.
They made me bear the cross, Thomas, I am the Man

They laid me in the tomb, Thomas, I am the Man
In three days I arose, Thomas, I am the Man

This same Thomas, a disciple of Jesus Christ, gave birth to the term “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas’ made the infamous statement to the other disciples who had seen Jesus appearing first without him, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later, Jesus re-appears to the same disciples and asks Thomas to put his fingers on his hands and into his side with the words, “Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:24-29

  © Helpful Creative  Sources:  Like the Dew  +  Bluegrass Today  +  Greg Rakozy


© Helpful Creative

Sources: Like the Dew + Bluegrass Today + Greg Rakozy

Lauren Daigle

Added on by Craig Stewart.

Lauren Daigle delivers powerful vocals on “How Can It Be” with both a painful yearning and wonder for God’s all-sufficient grace. Both the song and Lauren’s album by the same name became RIAA Certified Gold.

This heartfelt praise was written by Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram and Jeff Johnson. Both Lauren as the performer and Paul as one of the writers found their inspiration for this song in the biblical story of grace that Jesus Christ showed a woman caught in adultery, John 8:3-12.

These verses describe Jesus stooping down on the ground when a crowd of men threw a woman at His feet and said, “Look at what she’s done, shouldn't we stone her? That’s what the law requires,” they said. Listening to their accusations of being a lawbreaker… for a sin that would require her death, Jesus demonstrates God’s perfect justice, love and grace for her.

  © Helpful Creative  Sources:  NewReleaseToday.com  +  Premier Productions  +  Mira Bozhko


© Helpful Creative

Sources: NewReleaseToday.com + Premier Productions + Mira Bozhko

Fanny Crosby & William Doane

Added on by Craig Stewart.

“Draw Me Nearer,” is a classic hymn by what many consider to be the greatest hymn writer of all, Frances Jane “Fanny” Crosby and her collaborator William Doane. William J. Reynolds provides the context for the following composition of this hymn: 

“One evening she and Doane talked at length about the nearness of God in their lives. When Fanny went to her room, her mind and heart were flooded with ideas from their conversation. Before she went to sleep, the lines of “I am thine, O Lord” were in her mind... The next morning she recited the words to Doane, who wrote down the stanzas and composed the tune.”

The text appeared with the following inscription from Hebrews 10:22: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (KJV)

Fanny’s inspired revelation becomes clearer when reading the previous verses in Hebrews 10: 

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God...” (KJV)

This hymn provides a timeless understanding of a heart’s desire for Christ’s grace and perfection.

  © Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.  Source:  Discipleship Ministries


© Helpful Creative. All Rights Reserved.

Source: Discipleship Ministries